Jokowi touts ‘white-haired’ successor to secure legacy

Many saw Jokowi’s comments as a not-so-subtle nod to the silver-haired Ganjar, who frequently tops public opinion surveys on potential presidential candidates for 2024.

Fikri Harish

Fikri Harish

The Jakarta Post


Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo (right) speaks in front of students taking part in an event on Dec. 8, 2019 in Semarang to commemorate International Anticorruption Day.(JP/Suherdjoko)

November 29, 2022

JAKARTA – President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has sent his strongest signal of endorsement yet for Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo, telling thousands of his supporters in a stadium address to vote for a “white-haired” leader in 2024, a clear reference to his fellow Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician.

“Vote for leaders who are willing to get down and dirty, those who are willing to put themselves in the shoes of the people,” Jokowi said.

“These characteristics are reflected in their appearance, such as too many wrinkles out of their concern for the people,” he continued, instructing the crowd to consider candidates whose hair had turned white from caring “so much about the people”.

Many saw Jokowi’s comments as a not-so-subtle nod to the silver-haired Ganjar, who frequently tops public opinion surveys on potential presidential candidates for 2024.

Jokowi’s remarks came only days after the two politicians made a blusukan (impromptu visit) to Colomadu market in Karanganyar, a regency bordering Jokowi’s birthplace of Surakarta to the east.

While the President has previously appeared to lend his support to other presidential hopefuls, including Gerindra Party leader Prabowo Subianto and Golkar Party chairman Airlangga Hartarto, his tacit endorsement of Ganjar was made in front of thousands of his supporters, with his electoral muscle on full display.

The political rally at Gelora Bung Karno was organized by the United Nusantara Movement and attended by thousands of Jokowi’s die-hard supporters from throughout the country, including members of various pro-Jokowi volunteer groups.

The buses they rode in parked along Jl. Sudirman, clogging up the busy thoroughfare from early Saturday morning. Some attendees carried banners calling for the President to run for another term so he could see his  programs through.

Beyond 2024

As he is constitutionally barred from seeking a third presidential term, Jokowi told the audience to vote for a candidate who would build on his legacy.

“What we’ve built together has to be continued, agreed? This is what we should maintain, not just for [the elections in] 2024 and 2029, but also for Golden Indonesia 2045,” Jokowi said, referring to his administration’s vision of achieving major development milestones in time for Indonesia’s centenary.

Political researcher Firman Noor of the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN) said it was clear Jokowi had an interest in promoting candidates likely to protect his legacy.

“There’s the white-haired candidate [Ganjar], the former general [Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto] who ran against Jokowi before and Airlangga Hartarto, the [coordinating economic minister] and also a favorite of Jokowi’s,” Firman said, listing the President’s preferences among the potential candidates.

During his tenure, Jokowi has pursued an ambitious project to relocate the capital from Jakarta to East Kalimantan. He is currently seeking investors to ensure that the Rp 466 trillion (US$32.7 billion) project becomes his crowning legacy.

Election meddling?

The event at Gelora Bung Karno, which resembled a political campaign rally, and Jokowi’s apparent political endorsement may not bode well for his own party, which has repeatedly insisted that its final nomination decision lies with chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri.

The PDI-P establishment has shown reservations about nominating Ganjar, given his troubled relationship with party executive Puan Maharani, Megawati’s daughter, who is also seeking to run for president in 2024.

Without directly criticizing Jokowi, PDI-P lawmaker Deddy Yevri Sitorus suggested Saturday’s event risked undermining the 2024 election.

“We shouldn’t let the maneuvering of volunteer groups give the impression that the President favors certain candidates and prompt allegations of cheating,” Deddy said in a statement.

He also criticized the organizers for holding the rally on the heels of the 5.6-magnitude earthquake that killed 318 people in Cianjur, West Java.

While Deddy believed Jokowi had no choice but to attend the event, Firman said it reflected the President’s relations with his party.

“This indicates that Jokowi doesn’t really give much [thought] to the PDI-P, as his supporters’ group has never really [referred to] the party,” he said.

Jokowi’s supporters saw him more as an individual and not as a PDI-P member, Firman continued. This gave the President more freedom to stray from the party line.

Minority vote

However, when asked if Jokowi’s die-hard supporters could sway the election, Firman noted that they were a minority in terms of the bigger picture.

As 2024 drew closer, as well as the deadline for parties to formally nominate candidates, the voices of Jokowi’s supporters would eventually quiet down, he said. (ipa/ahw)

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